New South Wales has again recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 46 people succumbing to Covid-19 as the state’s chief health officer warns of more to come.
A total of 359 people have now died from the virus in the first 20 days of 2022 in NSW, more than half the total number of deaths recorded throughout 2021.
Premier Dominic Perrottet struck a defiant tone at a press conference on Friday, saying updated modelling showing hospitalisations and people in ICU remain below best-case scenarios released by the state’s health department at the beginning of this month.
There were 2,743 Covid-positive people in hospital and 209 in intensive care on Friday, the second day in a row that those figures have fallen.
“In difficult times, these are reassuring and pleasing signs in relation to our health system,” Perrottet said.
“We were expecting more than 3,000 people in our hospitals with Covid and in a worst-case scenario, 6,000 people … the figure today provides some reassurance in terms of the situation here in NSW.”
Along with the updated hospitalisation modelling, the NSW chief health officer, Kerry Chant, on Friday gave a detailed breakdown of the 28 people under the age of 65 who had died from Covid in the past week.
Of the 28, 13 were not vaccinated, while one person had received one dose. Only four of the 28 did not have a significant underlying health condition, and three of those people were unvaccinated.
The other 24 had a series of health conditions including 10 with significant heart or valvular disease, seven with diabetes, six with obesity, six with chronic lung disease, four with severe liver disease and four with cancer. Many of the conditions were overlapping.
Chant also warned the number of people dying from the virus in NSW was “likely to remain high” for some time given the lag in case numbers and hospitalisations.
“Unfortunately, the death numbers will be likely to remain high,” she said.
But she said a “variety of indicators” pointed to the outbreak having slowed in recent days, with officials becoming increasingly confident the first Omicron wave had plateaued.
Drops in hospitalisations, the number of workers in isolation, and case positivity rates pointed to declining transmission, she said.
“That all gives us a sense that the spread of Covid is slowing and it is pleasing to see,” she said.
Perrottet has continued to come under fire over decisions made since he became premier in October, including scrapping an indoor mask mandate on 15 December before being forced to reintroduce the policy as cases surged in the week leading up to Christmas.
But he insists he does not regret that decision, and the decision to push ahead with the loosening of restrictions. On Friday he began to push back on suggestions he had gone further than other states in reopening the economy by pointing to a similar level of restrictions in the Labor-held states of Victoria and Queensland.
“We’re not going our own way in NSW, we are following the national plan with every other state along the eastern seaboard,” he said.
“This view is false that is being perpetrated that somehow NSW is taking a different approach. NSW is taking the national approach just like Victoria and just like Queensland.
“If you look right across the country, we’ve all taken this approach [although] there are different approaches obviously in Western Australia.”
It comes as the death of a baby with Covid last month was referred to the coroner, and the Australian federal police launch an investigation into reports of price gouging of rapid antigen tests.
Health authorities have confirmed the baby had tested positive for Covid-19 and died in hospital last month. In a statement, the Hunter New England Health District said it had referred the case to the coroner “given uncertainties as to the cause of death”.
“The coroner and forensic pathologists are working hard to get the answers that, most importantly, the family wants and the clinicians want, in terms of this child and the contribution that Covid may or may not have made to its death,” Chant said on Friday.